tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 3, 2016 4:02am-4:29am EST
the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, the current senate democratic leader once stated that -- quote -- "nowhere in the constitution does it say the senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote." the incoming senate democratic leader, the one we'll have next year, should not even wait until the final year of the last president's term to declare that the senate should not confirm a supreme court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances. and we all know what vice president biden said when he chaired the judiciary committee. here's what he said: "it would
be our pragmatic conclusion" he said "that once a political season is underway -- and it is -- action on a supreme court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over." that's the essence, mr. president, of the biden rule. yesterday the chairman of the judiciary committee and i personally reiterated to president obama that we will observe the biden rule. the american people deserve to be heard on this matter. that's the fairest and most reasonable approach today. voters have already begun to choose the next president who in turn will nominate the next supreme court justice. it's an important decision. justice scalia himself reminded us that setting aside one's personal views is one of the primary qualifications for a judge. his aim was to follow the constitution wherever it took him, even if he disagreed politically with the outcome. we saw that when he sided with the constitutional right of
protesters to burn the american flag. if you're going to be a good and faithful judge, he said, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you're not always going to like the conclusions you reach. i think americans agree that judges should be fair, impartial arbiters who apply the law and the constitution equally to all and as actually written, not as a wish it were. i think most americans agree that a judge should be committed to an evenhanded interpretation of the law and the constitution so everyone who walks into a courtroom knows he or she will with a fair shake. but there's another view of the role of a judge under the view promoted by the current president, the so called empathy standard, judges prioritize their political ideology above the law. the problem of that approach to judging is that empathy is only good in the courtroom if you're lucky enough to be the person the judge actually has empathy
for. it's not so good if you're the other guy. this is something the american people should decide. president obama still has every right to nominate someone on his way out the door. the senate also has every right to withhold its consent. that's what the biden rule reminds us this election year. we will appropriately revisit the matter after americans select their new president. now this is not the only issue we discussed down at the white house yesterday. we also had a constructive discussion about other legislative issues like the prescription opioid and heroin epidemics sweeping our country and the important bill we'll continue to consider today to help address it. the comprehensive addiction and recovery act or cara is bipartisan legislation that targets this crisis at every level. the bill has a host of
supporters including 42 bipartisan cosponsors and more than 130 groups dedicated to combatting the epidemic. and while this is an important authorization bill, i would also note that congress has already appropriated $400 million to opioid-specific programs already. all 400 million of those funds still remain available to be spent today. that's right, mr. president, these funds are still available and we'll have more opportunities to address funding through the appropriations process later this spring. michael bottecelli, the director of national control policy came to congress a few years ago and thanked congress for including funding in the spending bill saying we appreciate that congress provided more than $400 million in the fiscal 2016 appropriations act, specifically to address the opioid epidemic,
an increase of more than $100 million from the previous year. botticelli went on to say there's clear evidence that a comprehensive response like that of cara is tremendously important. he said that the provisions in cara are critically important to make headway in terms of this epidemic. let's now -- let's not allow this issue to get tangled up in politics. it's really too important to each of our states. let's do our part today to help those in recovery take their lives back. let's help keep families together and kids safer, to help prevent more americans from suffering at the hands of addiction. let's put politics aside and continue to work to pass the comprehensive addiction and recovery act which would be an important step forward in the fight against our national opioid and heroin crisis.
the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: people that watch us on television should understand that everything we do is not dower and kind of frowny. there are times when we are away from the cameras, we get along well and have a good time. there's no better example of that than this morning. every day -- i'm sorry -- every week at 8:00 in the morning on wednesday we meet downstairs in the senate prayer breakfast. i go there as often as i can, and they're really stimulating and really i'm glad i go every time i do go. but today was especially good because al franken, the junior senator from minnesota, was
there making the presentation. and even though there was an opening prayer and a closing prayer and some talk in between that, his presentation was terrific. and of course we all know al franken. a lot of it was funny. so i want everyone watching this this morning to know that we're not always -- i use the word dour. there are times when we smile and have a good times. the presiding officer, everyone knows that the presiding officer and i have a total agreement in policy, but i so admire the presiding officer. without reservation, i can say we are friends. not just political friends, but we're friends. a year ago when i was injured, because he's an ophthalmologist,
he reached out to me and gave me his advice and mostly his concern, for which i'm grateful. and i think if we stopped and looked around the, at each other, we would find such relationships like the presiding officer and the senior senator from nevada, and i appreciate that. mr. president, now we have a new rule called the biden rule, which i guess it was invented this morning. what happens when my friend the republican leader, as he did yesterday, talks about what senator biden said, he never completes the presentation senator biden made. senator biden did not say there wouldn't be any nominations. here's what he said in ending his presentation. at the end of the speech in 1992, senator biden said
compromise is the responsible course both for the white house and for the senate. if the senate consults and are cooperates with the senate or moderates its selection, then this nomination may enjoy my support as did justice kennedy and souter. that's what this is all about. senator biden, vice president biden never said there wouldn't be any nominations approved, and that was evident in the oval office yesterday. vice president biden told the story of a republican president called him down. he was chairman of the judiciary committee. and said, okay, we're having some problems here. i got ten names on a piece of paper. i want you to look at it and just give me your rough estimate. which of these do you think would work? these are people that a
republican president presented to the democratic chair of the judiciary committee saying give me your impression of these people. he went on yes, yes, yes, no. he had ten names. and that's the same thing that happened yesterday in the white house. president obama said do you have any names for me? give them to me. i'll be happy to take a look at them. so, mr. president, there is no biden rule unless the biden rule is we'll continue doing what we've always done here in the senate. and what is that? we approve, in any presidential election year. we've never not -- double negative. in a presidential election year we always take care of a nominee. welch -- we've never not in the history of this country not done that until now. the other thing, mr. president, is we keep talking about a lot of political things, but we have an obligation based on the
constitution of the united states to do something about these nominations we get from the president. we have a constitutional duty to do our jobs, and that duty is to give advice and consent to the president when he sends a nomination up here, which we'll have in a matter of a week or so. and we do it quickly. we don't spend months and months doing this, mr. president. republicans' unprecedented call to block any nominee is more of obstruction we've had here too often. this has never ever been done before. and for my friend the republican leader to talk about statements i made and the senior senator from new york made, of course we made statements. it didn't affect what we did
around here. people listened and it slowed down what president bush was going to do. but the fact is president bush did what he wanted, and he and the process was able to present nominations to us, and we looked them over. and now with the new standard, we're not going to meet with whoever this person is. we don't know who it is but we're not going to meet with him. we're not going to hold hearings and we're not going to vote. and that's wrong. mr. president, here is something that appeared in "the washington post" headlined "trump is the g.o.p.'s frankenstein monster." this was the headline in "the washington post" opinion piece offered by robert kagan former official of the reagan state department now a senior fellow at the brookings institute.
it's true donald trump is the republican party's frankenstein. republicans spent the last eight years stoking fires of resentment and hatred building trump piece by piece. today the republican establishment acts like it's surprised by donald trump and his victories around the country. they feign outrage that a demagogue spewing vile is somehow winning in a party that has spent years telling immigrants they're not welcome in america. they act surprised that republican voters are flocking to their candidate, even as republican leaders continue to support a man who refuses to distance himself from the ku klux klan. they express shock and outrage that republican voters cheer trump's school yard taunts, even as they trounce the most common courtesy extended to every president, even as they deny a fair hearing to the president's supreme court nominee for the
first time ever. first time in history. republicans shouldn't be surprised. they spent eight years laying the groundwork for the rise of donald trump. the reality is that republican leaders are reaping what they have sown. as mr. kagan said in "the washington post" opinion piece yesterday, and i quote -- "the party's own political crimes are being punished in a bit of justice fit for greek tragedy." close quote. seven years ago, the republican leaders of the party decided that president obama was the illegitimate president. they decided his presidency was unworthy of their basic respect and good-faith efforts. congressional republicans decided that whatever policies this president proposed, they would reflexively oppose them, regardless of the merits. instead, congressional republicans have only one objective -- to keep president obama from being re-elected. in order to do that, the
republican leader and its party refused to engage the president or democrats on policy. no matter how dire the crisis for the american people, republican leaders decided it was more important to deny president obama an achievement than help people in need. mr. president, can we have order in the senate, please? the presiding officer: the senate will come to order, please. mr. reid: it's very difficult to make a presentation when we have a deal going on across the way. mr. president, no matter how dire the crisis for the american people, republican leaders decided, i repeat, it was more important to deny president obama an achievement than to help people in need. think about the monumental legislation the republicans refuse to even engage in, let alone work on. the american recovery investment act, known as the stimulus. when our economy was in a nose dive, in a nose dive, remember,
when obama was elected, that month he was elected, the country lost 800,000 jobs in one month. we were in the throes of the great recession, and yet it took a herculean effort to get a mere three republicans to work with us on that legislation. very important. they were strong, they were courageous. specter, collins and snowe. but the republican leadership made it clear they didn't want their senators working with president obama on the stimulus. well, we got it done. health care. before obamacare, there were nearly 50 million americans with no health insurance. since then, almost 20 million more americans have gained health coverage. today, if you have a preexisting disability, you get -- you are covered with insurance. today the rate of no insurance is below 10%.
this has all inspired congressional republicans who would not work with democrats despite our best efforts, refused to do anything to engage in any way. when the debate over health care started, three republicans -- snowe, grassley and enzi, members of the very important finance committee -- acted interested in fixing our nation's health care system, but republican leadership -- we would say twisted their arms, convinced them, whatever words we want to use to get them in line with the republican leader's wishes and abandon any hope of bipartisanship on the issue. so there was none. senator snowe voted for the bill in the finance committee but the republican leadership even turned her to vote no on the senate floor, and the senior senator from iowa went back to iowa and started talking about death panels. doesn't that sound like something donald trump would do?
wall street and the dodd-frank legislation. wall street crashed. i can remember being in the white house with the republican secretary of the treasury, wonderful man, secretary paulson, was on his knees begging nancy pelosi to work with him. the country was in a deep -- in deep trouble. democrats controlled the body. we had a republican president. and we worked with the republican president. in the shadow, republicans would not work with us to rein in the big banks and financial institutions. they had been warned by the republican administration and only one republican voted for that bill, only one. time and time again, congressional republicans went to the extreme to block any positive legislation to improve our nation. the tactics used to obstruct the president were unprecedented.
in effect, the republican leader told the president that none of his policies would get a fair hearing from the republicans, and that's basically true. republicans denied the office of the president the respect it deserves. their shoddy and disrespectful treatment became the norm. in six years, the republican leader launched more than 500,000 -- i'm sorry. i'm sorry. that is a little high. in six years, the republican leader launched more than 500 filibusters. now, during the same six-year period, lyndon johnson in six years had to overcome two filibusters. 500-2. this is far more than anyone ever imagined could happen in this great body. and actions speak louder than words. automatically filibustering the president's policies for years on end sends a clear and simple message. republicans think that this president's proposals are illegitimate, but instead of working for the american people,
republicans decided that making the extreme right wing happy was more important. republicans have blocked legislation to prevent criminals and suspected terrorists from buying guns. even background checks. republicans bought commonsense campaign finance reform. we had 59 votes to allow some disclosure of all this, these huge amounts of money. not a single republican voted with us. not a single republican. republicans voted to deport dreamers. republicans blocked an increase in the minimum wage. republicans blocked equal pay for women. republicans blocked efforts to do something about student loan debt. now republicans are blocking a nominee to the supreme court before that person's even been nominated. this is just a short list of what they have blocked. from this rhetoric to their actions, the republicans have set the trump standard. the republican party has long used islam to fearmonger.
now donald trump is doing the same thing. the republican party has spent years railing against latinos and immigrants, trying to incite fear. congressman steve king called undocumented immigrants drug dealers. he described their bodies in a very negative, ugly way. now donald trump is saying the same thing. donald trump is the ultimate fulfillment of the republican party's legacy of obstruction and resentment. but to be frank, it's not only trump. senator cruz, senator rubio and ben carson are saying basically the same thing. maybe a little more subtle, but they're saying the same thing. after all, this is the same party, the republican party, that yesterday saw nine of its members vote against naming a post office against the world-famous poet and civil rights activist maya angelou.
hard to believe. and even as the establishment condemns the things donald trump says and does, the republican leadership is still supporting it. the speaker of the house yesterday affirmed that he will vote for donald trump if he is the republican nominee for president. the senate republican leader has not said he won't support donald trump if he is the nominee, publicly at least. republicans are supporting a man who refused to denounce the k.k.k., a man who continues to denigrate immigrants, muslims and the disabled. donald trump is the standard-bearer for the republican party. republicans create him by spending seven years appealing to some of the darkest forces in america. now it's up to the republicans to try and undo what they have done by denouncing donald trump. it's time for the republicans to stop the frankenstein they created. "trump is the g.o.p.'s frankenstein monster." if republicans fail to stop donald